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Overall Rating

Awesome: 18.75%
Worth A Look37.5%
Average: 20.31%
Pretty Bad: 9.38%
Total Crap: 14.06%

4 reviews, 40 user ratings

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Heist (2001)
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Rob Gonsalves

"More airless Mamet games."
3 stars

In photos, David Mamet comes off as a stoic Hemingway Man, come to save cinema from itself -- thick brush-cut that shows no sign of thinning, sometimes a cigar, sometimes a severe monastic beard. Does his mere presence intimidate critics into praising his films?

As a playwright (American Buffalo, Glengarry Glen Ross) and essayist, he has few equals; he's a giant in several areas, but I'm not sure moviemaking is one of them. Heist, Mamet's latest airless exercise, strips the caper film down to its bones -- the attitude, the planning, the double-crosses. It's neatly and skillfully done; it's also a regression -- can I be the only one who prefers it when Mamet, as in American Buffalo, focuses on everything but the "action"?

Actors love Mametspeak -- to enunciate those terse, stylized strings of epithets and repetitions is an actor's diploma -- and Mamet has corralled a sterling cast for (as with The Score, a similar and, I have to say, much more entertaining film) a rather routine run-through. Gene Hackman, that pinnacle of weary wisdom and malevolent self-amusement, should be able to keep the movie going all by himself; he's got backup in hotheaded Delroy Lindo, young punk Sam Rockwell, eternally wised-up magician (and Mamet favorite) Ricky Jay, and the second-billed Danny DeVito in what averages out to a glorified two-scener.

Uniformly, these fine actors all chafe at Mamet's increasingly rigorous words and pictures (can someone please reassure Mamet that it's no betrayal of his stage roots to make his films of some visual interest?). Hackman, as your standard-issue career thief looking to make One Final Score, seems awfully hemmed in; usually he can take any dialogue, however absurd and banal, and give it a lived-in authenticity, but too often here he opens his mouth and a bright shiny Mametism leaps out -- the performance never really coheres or suggests a real person. DeVito, as a shady character trying to coerce Hackman into the Final Score, shouts a lot and does nothing he hasn't done before (folks, rent Living Out Loud for a great, un-DeVito-like piece of work); poor Sam Rockwell simply looks marooned in the sort of thinly written and juiceless role -- DeVito's sleazy nephew who tags along on the job -- that this gifted character actor should be above by now.

Does it matter that the movie's sole major female character -- Hackman's wife, played by Mamet's wife Rebecca Pidgeon in her usual impassive I'll-do-what's-required-of-me-but-no-more style -- makes no sense whatsoever? Or that, after the third scam or so, you just sit back distrusting any interactions you see, therefore effectively squelching any emotional involvement in them? Heist isn't a pleasurable old-school, perfectly-cast piece of pulp fiction like The Score or Ronin (which Mamet cowrote); it's just David Mamet congratulating himself on his own intricate cleverness. He seems to see cinema itself -- no, life itself -- as a scam, and he positions himself as the guy who knows all the tricks (it probably explains his respect for Ricky Jay).

For an audience, though, austere knowingness isn't enough. Feisty, original characters are required to keep us amused during the familiar heist mechanics (Mamet stages the crime sequences less interestingly than, oh, any director ever). Trying for iconic, literarily "blank" characters, Mamet gives his actors nothing to work with and an audience nothing to engage with. There's some assorted amusing nastiness (more than one critic has quoted the late-inning Hackman-DeVito exchange), and Mamet does set up a realistically fumbly (and therefore exciting) gunfight near the finish. But Heist works neither as art nor as meat-and-potatoes diversion.

Mamet may see himself as the king of the con artists, but maybe that only goes as far as conning so many critics into thinking he's making something more significant than stiff little films with clenched-fist dialogue.

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originally posted: 01/26/07 04:06:04
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User Comments

10/23/21 morris campbell a good flick best i remember 4 stars
11/23/13 Mr. Oliver Accessible&fun yet not a cozy genre film. Requires that you keep up. B+ Mamet 4 stars
10/24/10 Ministry Pompous, weak characters, insults audience's intelligence 1 stars
6/14/07 Kadabr Brilliant film. Probably too smart for most viewers and critics. 5 stars
1/26/07 Artist Bill No BS in this one ..great Mamet style. loved it. 5 stars
3/29/06 Josh Standlee I liked the cast, but this movie was pure fucking shit! Hackman's worst! 1 stars
6/14/05 Indrid Cold Something about Mamet's stilted, hipster dialog bugs me. A nice juicy story though. 4 stars
6/09/05 Agent Sands One of the 3 greatest heist films of all time, & more 1-liners than a Don Rickles marathon. 5 stars
2/21/05 Captain Craig Not Hackmans best work. Some stupid plot lines, Glad I rented it for a buck! 3 stars
8/11/04 Monster W. Kung Terrible. Story goes from boring to absurd like in the shoot-out in daylight... please... 2 stars
3/24/04 George Jung Perfect. 5 stars
3/22/04 john predictable and utterly lifeless - the worst I have ever seen by Mamet 1 stars
10/16/03 francis director and some of the actors going through the motions, Hackman and Di Vito excepted 3 stars
7/17/03 Mr. Hat Filled with slick, clever cons & heists, exciting double-crosses, & great plays on words. 4 stars
5/04/03 Phil M. Aficionado It was between average and worth a look. Depends on taste. 3 stars
4/11/03 Jack Bourbon Gene Hackman teams with Mamet? Can you believe it? Great scenes, confusing story, though. 4 stars
3/26/03 Jack Sommersby Witless crap from the overrated David Mamet. Not a good scene to be had. 1 stars
1/01/03 Andy Todes logic, sense, and plausability were held up, beaten, robbed, gagged and left for dead 1 stars
12/02/02 Jim More double-crosses than a shoe store. 4 stars
9/11/02 The Bomb 69 became repetitve with the crooks backstabbing each other until the end 3 stars
7/27/02 Punk_Ass Crappy acting, little dialog, very predictable. Bascily a pile of suck 2 stars
6/18/02 Dark Barøn Very predictable, poor writing, bad acting. 2 stars
5/26/02 Charles Tatum The twists and turns become predictable 4 stars
4/29/02 David A. This one really smells! It's like "Ocean's 11" in drag. Gene gets the gold! (Wow. yawn.) 1 stars
4/24/02 Iago What a horrible piece of shit! Slow with stupid dialouge. 1 stars
4/04/02 lauren mccreight trys way too hard to be ain't. 2 stars
3/24/02 J. Chusing Bites The Big One 2 stars
12/16/01 spaceworm DeVito's "money" line was a money line. HAckman (and Lindo) any day. 5 stars
12/12/01 Simeon Briggs Err, isnt this just a film where all the lines bare no relevence to that which preceeds it? 3 stars
12/07/01 Dominik Duprelle The dialogue. Mr Hackman, Mr Lindo. Quality entertainment. 4 stars
12/01/01 Phoenix Poor script. Hackman, De Vito, and Lindo deserve better. 2 stars
11/28/01 KMG Really slow at first, but Hackman just keeps on foolin' em! 4 stars
11/27/01 sdfr Mamet can spin a yarn as well as he can write dialogue. There's never a dull moment here. 4 stars
11/15/01 Tony C good for the "young, dumb and full of cum" 3 stars
11/14/01 spaceworm Look to the mid-seventies for the few times Hackman wasn't on the money. Elect him king. 4 stars
11/12/01 poetchuck Interesting twists, Hackman superb, Wife needs dialogue coach 5 stars
11/12/01 chouck bad dialog, over acting and a plot that was too full of itself 1 stars
11/10/01 Suzz Wooden acting; ridiculous screenplay; idiotic plot 1 stars
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  09-Nov-2001 (R)



Directed by
  David Mamet

Written by
  David Mamet

  Gene Hackman
  Danny DeVito
  Ricky Jay
  Sam Rockwell
  Delroy Lindo
  Rebecca Pidgeon

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